Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Something Important Happened On That Oscars TV Show-- Inside Job


When I retired from Warner Bros-- I mean on that last day-- I made a speech to the staff and remember telling them the best thing about leaving was that I'd never have to go to the Grammys again, let alone the MTV Awards or the People's Choice Awards or any of that godawful crap where you become a prop in someone's tawdry TV show. So you can imagine that I was not exactly watching the Oscars Sunday night and was only aware of it because all my tweet buddies were making fun of the show. The next morning I was delighted to hear that Inside Job won in the best documentary category, as it had at the Directors Guild of America and Writers Guild. It's the only movie I saw that won and DWT covered it here, here and here, even before it was released. For me to say it was the most important movie of the year, doesn't mean much since it was just about the only movie I saw this year. What director Charles Ferguson said on the stage last night, though, does mean something...
“Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong.”

And my neighbor told me the whole audience applauded. Thank goodness he wasn't pulled off the stage for having the gall to say something... political.
The film had impressed critics and the industry alike with its expansive cinematography, global reach, fast-paced narrative and pointed interviews.

Ferguson, a self-described "policy wonk" with a doctorate in political science, interviewed fund managers, central bankers and political advisers for his film, which uncovered an uncomfortably close professional relationship between academia and hedge funds.

But not everyone was willing to subject themselves to his pointed questions, including key players like Henry Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and treasury secretary at the worst moments of the economic implosion.

He also expected more from the new government.

"The biggest surprise to me personally and biggest disappointment was that nobody in the Obama administration would speak with me even off the record-- including people that I've known for many, many years," Ferguson said backstage.

He believes Americans, who lost homes and jobs in the millions because of shady mortgage lending and bank collapses, are disappointed that "nothing has been done."

"Unfortunately, I think that the reason is predominantly that the financial industry has become so politically powerful that it is able to inhibit the normal process of justice and law enforcement," said Ferguson.

Ironically, the only noteworthy coverage of Ferguson's powerful statement yesterday I saw in the mainstream media was from the Wall Street Journal, though not on their fabled editorial page. "Ferguson’s move," they reported, "to slam Wall Street-- just as his film had done on the big screen-- electrified the proceedings."
The acceptance speech was noteworthy. At these kinds of awards ceremonies, it is customary for self-congratulatory recipients to bask in the spotlight and thank everyone but their fifth-grade drama teachers. It was startling to hear Ferguson to attack Wall Street so brazenly.

Of course, you could be cynical and suggest that Ferguson’s tough talk will serve to put a light on Inside Job now and goose sales of DVDs. Ferguson has only managed to reignite the public’s anger for the sins of financial crisis. That may be what Wall Street executives are muttering this morning. But for now, score another big victory for Charles Ferguson.

By all means, get it here.

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